Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's about you

In the course of making my morning round of blogs, Facebook, and email, I received a note this morning from my dear friend Deacon Greg Kandra, author of The Deacon's Bench, who is one of those friends I mentioned in my post last Saturday. He asked me if anybody else had ever mentioned that I looked like my dear Pater Tom, that is, Thomas Merton. Apart from Deacon Greg, who made this observation in a post this morning, Who Is Thomas Merton?, there has only ever been one person, a lady in our parish some years ago, who mentioned any kind of resemblance Fr. M. Louis, OCSO.

There are a couple of people whose works and writings mean so much to me that I post about them sparingly, one is Pater Tom. Nonetheless, over the years I have posted things by him and about him, like this one from 2007, Anamnesis: Merton on Proust . Deacon Greg's post features part of a well done video that seeks to respond to the question, Who is Thomas Merton? The video is by Fr. James Martin, who is a great expositor of Merton. The title refers to the fact that a big part of Merton's spiritual theology is about discovering your true self in order to become who you already are, who God created you to be. Fr. Martin is also the author of the book, Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints.

Given that Deacon Greg's brief note bore the subject line "You" and came just as I was sifting my thoughts about what I might post today, I was struck that yesterday I posted about time, then last night in our little school of community we discussed what constitutes our humanity in light of Don Giussani's work. "Self," Gius wrote, "is nothing more than the clamorous, indestructible, and substantial exigency to affirm the meaning of everything." In a word, what constitutes our humanity at its deepest level is infinite desire.

Along these same lines, in the posthumously published The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation, at the beginning of the chapter called "Society and the Inner Self," Pater Tom observed that the self "is not mere emptiness, or unconsciousness. On the contrary, if we imagine that our inmost self is purely and simply something in us that is completely out of contact with the world of exterior objects, we would condemn ourselves in advance to complete frustration in our quest for spiritual awareness." He goes on to note that while we require "a certain introversion and detachment" in order to obtain greater spiritual awareness, "the spiritual 'I' obviously stands in a definite relationship to the world of objects," at least spatio-temporally if nothing else. "All the more," he continues, are we "related to the world of other personal 'subjects.'" Or, as one mentor and teacher of mine would say quite often, referring to John Donne's timeless insight that became the title of one of Pater Tom's books, No Man is an Island, "One person is no person."

Having broached the subject of sifting thoughts, one title for this post that crossed my mind, which I posted along with this on Facebook, was, Stocky bald guys and life in the spirit: convergences. Alas, it's too academic!

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